THE INTERVIEW: NATE GOLDBERG
Now that winter has finally arrived in North America, it seems like a good time to speak with Nate Goldberg, a man whom I think embodies the very best of winter sports. Nate’s actual title these days is Product Manager-Beaver Creek Nordic Center at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado. In summer, he exchanges hats to become the Director of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center.
But what these titles fail to reveal is that Nate is pretty much a perfect combination of athlete and teacher, a man who has introduced thousands of people to the singular joys of cross country skiing, snowshoeing and Telemark skiing. And in summer, he can be found in the Rockies as well as the Alps.
I first put on a pair of skinny skis with Nate back in 1989 at McCoy Park, Beaver’s Creek’s exemplary cross country trail system. You ride a chairlift up to the park and then ski at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet, with the high country of Colorado spread out before you.
Nate has patiently helped me in my attempts to learn the basics of Telemark skiing and taught me innumerable ways for negotiating some of the steepest terrain at Beaver Creek on alpine skis. When Nate speaks, pointers are informally delivered but laden with meaning.
My rule of thumb is that winter is not complete without at least one day on the snow with Nate. Fortunately, this season was no exception, and we recently spent a morning negotiating a minefield of moguls that fed into Larkspur Bowl. So with snow flying in much of the country, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Nate and talk about his passions, from Nordic pursuits to hiking in Austria.
How did you get into Nordic sports?
Growing up in Minnesota, I started skating and playing hockey when I was four years old. My hockey coaches never wanted us to ski so the natural progression was cross country skiing. I started skate skiing around 1982 after joining the MN Army National Guard. I was on the Biathlon team for four years. But Bill Koch, who won a silver medal in the Olympics, was the real impetus for skate skiing in the United States.
What’s the appeal of these sports?
The fitness component as well as the solitude. As well as play time. They say when you "free the heel, you free the mind."
The sport of cross country skiing seemed to peak about 15 years ago in the US. Do you have that sense or am I just missing something?
I would agree with you that some of the appeal has diminished but for what reason(s) I’m not sure. I am pleased to say that in Beaver Creek, we are seeing a slight increase in cross country skier visits. I think that the snowshoeing is where we are seeing a plateau.
Snowshoeing, on the other hand, seems to have gotten very popular. Why is that and how has snowshoeing evolved in the past decade?
It has been a great ride, the popularity has surged over the past 10 years with many companies coming and going, and the last five or so companies still standing seem to be doing well. The equipment has improved so dramatically from the tennis racket look to high-end, carbon fiber, ergonomically designed shoes for both men and women. The binding systems have improved dramatically and that has been one of the greatest benefits to the consumer. We used to say that "if you can walk, you can cross country ski. " Now we say, "if you can walk, you can snowshoe."
How about the equipment. How much has it really changed?
As I mentioned, the snowshoe equipment has changed dramatically. From backcountry to racing to women’s-specific shoes, there is really a snowshoe for every type of enthusiast. The Nordic equipment has changed as well. The boots are more supportive, the bindings are no longer the three-pin system, and skis are no longer fitted by reaching up and sizing to the break in your wrist. The skis have taken on a shape in some instances, and are also sized by weight.
Let’s talk about freeing the heel. How long have you been on Telemark skis?
I first freed my heel back in 1990. I never even knew what a Telemark turn was. But from then on, it was my destiny. The equipment has changed dramatically over the years, from leather boots to plastic, and from 205cm to 167cm shaped skis. It’s a similar trend to what we have seen in the Alpine world. The learning curve is also much quicker, most beginner Tele skiers will be able link turns within the first couple of hours.
What kind of skill or fitness levels are needed for Telemark?
Telemark skiing is a bit more demanding, but well worth the work. It provides a great cross over for summer activities such as hiking and cycling. A skiing background is always helpful and the more fit you are the more endurance you will have. There is no training out there that will ever replace the specificity of the actual sport.
What kinds of activities do you offer at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center?
Cross country, skate skiing, snowshoeing and Telemark. We consider Nordic Sports to be anything where the heel is free.
At what point do you have to learn some essential back country skills? And what might they be?
Telemarking is a skill that can be taken into the backcountry. It allows you a method for skinning up a mountain and skiing off "piste." It is a way to get away from the crowds and into nature.
Tell us about some of the places you like to Telemark, cross country or snowshoe?
I hate to be partial, but I think McCoy Park is one of Colorado’s and Beaver Creeks best kept secrets for classical, skate and snowshoeing. But I do love the steeps and deeps of Silverton Mountain on my Tele’s.
I know that you lead the Beaver Creek Hiking Center in the summer. What sort of activities are on offer?
We offer guided nature hikes geared towards all ability levels. From a three-hour stroll to a high alpine lake to summiting one of Colorado’s famous 14ers (fourteen thousand foot peak). We have permits from Beaver Creek to Buena Vista, so there’s no shortage of trails for the hiking enthusiasts.
And how about overseas trips?
Prior to starting up the Beaver Creek Hiking Center eight summers ago, I guided hiking trips in Europe. In fact, there are times when I feel I know the hiking trails in Switzerland better then the ones in Colorado. So I offer two weeks of trips every fall. The highlight is always our trip to Lech-Zurs, Austria. This is our sister city and they always treat us like royalty. The two trips scheduled for fall of 2007 are the "Gems of Europe" which includes Chamonix and Zermatt from September 16th to 23rd and our "Sister City Trip," which includes Lech-Zurs, Austria from September 9th to 15th.
Then there’s fitness. What’s your routine to stay on top of so many aerobic disciplines throughout the year?
I am an avid cyclist, hiker, snowshoer and skate skier. If it takes place outdoors, count me in. I love aerobic-based endurance type events. Nutrition is a big part of it, as well as lifestyle. I feel so fortunate that my work and play are my life.
For more information, contact Beaver Creek or call (970) 845-5313.